Atcham (and Shrewsbury from 1871), Shropshire

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Up to 1834

Atcham was incorporated under a local Act in 1792, one of several such incorporations (Oswestry, Ellesmere, Whitchurch, and Montgomery and Pool) following the example set by Shrewsbury in 1783. The Act gave the Incorporation powers, amongst other things, to erect and operate a workhouse which it did soon afterwards at a site at Cross Houses, at the north side of the road to Much Wenlock. The building, designed by J.H. Haycock, was three storeys high and constructed in red brick

Atcham original main building from the south-east, 2006.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Atcham original main building from the south-west, 2006.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Ruckley had a parish workhouse in a cottage at the west of the village, now known as Duffy's Cottage.

Ruckley former parish workhouse, 2006.
© Peter Higginbotham.

After 1834

Atcham Poor Law Union was formed on 18th November 1836. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 46 in number, representing its 45 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):

County of Salop: Acton Burnel, Alberbury, Albrighton, Astley, Atcham, Battlefield, Berrington, Cardeston, Church Preen, Church Pulverbatch, Condover, Cound, Cressage, Eaton Constantine, Fitz, Ford, Frodesley, Great Hanwood, Habberley, Harley, Hughley, Kenley, Leighton, Lutton, Melverley, Minsterley, Montford, Pitchford, Pontesbury (2), Preston Gubbals, Ruckley [and Langley], Shineton, Stapleton, Shrawardine, Uffington, Uppington, Upton Magna, Westbury, Wilhington, Woollaston, Wroxeter.
County of Montgomery: Bauseley, Criggion, Middletown, Rhos Goch.

The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 17,910 with parishes ranging in size from Rhos Goch (population 59) to Pontesbury (2,936). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1834-36 had been £9,830 or 11s.0d. per head of the population.

The new Atcham Poor Law Union took over and adapted the existing Cross Houses workhouse which for which the Poor Law Commissioners authorised an expenditure of £4,500. The site location and layout are shown on the 1901 map below:

Atcham workhouse site, 1901.

The site originally had an entrance block fronting onto the road at the south. This incorporated a porter's lodge and an entrance archway. The main workhouse building was a substantial three-storey building facing to the east.

Atcham main building from the south-east, 2001.
© Peter Higginbotham.

At the centre rear were kitchen and dining hall which may also have served as a chapel.

Atcham rear of main block from the south, 2001.
© Peter Higginbotham.

In 1871, the union absorbed the parishes belonging to the recently dissolved Shrewsbury Incorporation, namely Holy Cross with St Giles, St Alkmund, St Chad, St Julian, and St Mary, plus the parish of Meole Brace. The Cross Houses workhouse was then enlarged, taking its capacity to 550 inmates. Two infirmary blocks were added to the north of the main workhouse.

Atcham main infirmary block from the north-east, 2001.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Atcham small infirmary block and mortuary from the south, 2001.
© Peter Higginbotham.

A chapel was also erected to the east of the workhouse.

Atcham chapel from the south-west, 2001.
© Peter Higginbotham.

In 1871, Atcham merged with the Shrewsbury incorporation to create the Atcham and Shrewsbury Poor Law Union.

During the First World War, the Union workhouse became Berrington War Hospital.

Berrington War Hospital. c.1916

Afterwards, it reverted to civilian use becoming the Poor Law Hospital for Shropshire and was later known as Cross Houses Hospital. It was later used as offices by the Shropshire Health Authority but in 2004, after a period of lying empty, the site was redeveloped with the original main building being retained.

Scattered Homes

The Atcham Union operated a number of children's scattered homes in Shrewsbury located at Besford House and Belle Vue House, both on Trinity Street, and at Pen-y-Bont on Betton Street. In the 1920s, these three could house a total of 100 children. Other locations that may have served as homes are Grasmere, London Road (for boys); Holywell Street; and 143 Abbey Foregate.




  • None.


Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.

  • Shropshire Archives, Castle Gates, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY1 2AQ. Please note that records may contain gaps or have access restrictions - please check before visiting. Holdings include:
    • Atcham Incorporation — Admissions (1794-1836); Register of apprentices (1802-6, 1812-14); etc.
    • Atch Union — Guardians' minutes (1836-1930); Creed register (1906-14); A wide variety of administrative papers.


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